Virgin Australia's Melbourne-Hong Kong schedule shake-up

Virgin Australia's Melbourne-Hong Kong schedule shake-up

Virgin Australia's July 2 launch of Sydney-Hong Kong flights will see its Melbourne-Hong Kong service pared back in ways which may or may not please business travellers.

First up, from July 2 the roster will be cut back from daily to just five times a week – with no flights on Wednesday or Friday.

Frequency is key for corporate flyers, and having to arrange your schedule around those two holes in the calendar – especially when one falls at the very end of the working week, when you'd rather be heading home that night – will likely cruel its appeal, and certainly compared to the daily flights of Qantas and thrice-daily of Cathay Pacific.

Both this and the revamped timetable are due to the limited availability of landing and take-off slots at crowded Hong Kong airport, with the new Sydney-Hong Kong route obviously taking precedence.

The new schedule sees a Melbourne departure of 12.30am – yes, that's half-past midnight – every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, reaching Hong Kong at 8.10am.

By comparison, Virgin's current (pre-Sydney) schedule sees the northbound flight leaving Melbourne around noon, depending on the day (exact timing varies from 11am to 12.40pm).

Flights out of Hong Kong undergo relatively little change: they're currently departing around 8pm, depending on the day, to reach Melbourne around 8am-9am the next morning.

The new Hong Kong-Melbourne leg is wheels up at 6.10pm for a Melbourne arrival at 5.40am except for Monday, when the times are pushed back around an hour to 7.15pm and 6.45am respectively.

So it's the Melbourne-Hong Kong leg which gets the most dramatic shift, moving a whole 12 hours.

In its favour, the new time allows for a solid working day plus dinner at home before heading to the airport – with a flying time of almost ten hours in which to get your sleep and ideally awake refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead (even if that means a connecting flight into mainland China with Virgin partner Hong Kong Airlines).

Of course, not every traveller sleeps well on flights – and many would undoubtedly prefer a daytime leg which sees them able to land into Hong Kong that evening and head straight to their hotel.

So we're asking our Melbourne-based and Hong Kong-bound readers: how will Virgin's change to its Melbourne-Hong Kong schedule affect you, and will it impact your choice of airline the next time you fly?

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

32 comments

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    5 Mar, 2018 08:26 am

    I don't mind the overnight flight up. These flights typically connect very well for onward services.

    You see why they gave that slot to MEL-HKG rather than SYD-HKG. The dreaded SYD curfew would have made this slot unviable as it would have had to have left SYD before 2300 and then flown very slowly or circled HKG for an hour or so to make the 0805 arrival slot.
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  • anonymous

    anonymous

    5 Mar, 2018 08:29 am

    If they can turn the inbound flight into a day flight, it would make a good point of difference to QF.
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  • pdaniels62

    pdaniels62

    5 Mar, 2018 08:43 am

    We were booked on the old schedule to line up with VS to London on the same day. Obviously that no longer works. Has that been confirmed. We were flying Sydney Mel Hong Kong so it could still work if we fly ex Sydney
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  • Jorge_fly

    Jorge_fly

    5 Mar, 2018 09:41 am

    I don't mind seeing night time flights as it is currently dominated by CX. This way, it gives travellers options to flight during the day (via Sydney) or night (via Melbourne). I personally think this is a good thing.
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  • James Barker

    James Barker

    5 Mar, 2018 10:00 am

    I am actually okay with the late night or is that 'early morning' departure out of Melbourne. It reminds me of when Qantas changed QF9 to a late night departure, at first a lot of people protested but once the change took effect many people found it was actually better for them.
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  • aklrunway

    aklrunway

    5 Mar, 2018 10:07 am

    Typical inconsistent Virgin...
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  • Dan

    Dan22

    5 Mar, 2018 11:25 am

    I dont get the basis for your comment - are you referring to schedule/times being inconsistent on alternating days? Like how often is this going to have an effect on you? They have 6 A330s in their fleet, atleast they are making routes like this work.
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  • aklrunway

    aklrunway

    5 Mar, 2018 11:35 am

    Because this is what Virgin does. Swap and change so often I'm surprised their passengers aren't dizzy! MEL/LAX in, then out then in, PER/AUH cancelled before it even began, MEL/HKG daily, now 5 times a week, BNE/LAX changed due to them re-entering MEL/LAX and now two different times depending on what day you fly... Seriously inconsistent.
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    Gazza129

  • Dean

    deanr

    5 Mar, 2018 11:38 am

    Not forgetting that VA uses different lounges in LA on different days of the week for Brisbane flights either...
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  • Dan

    Dan22

    5 Mar, 2018 11:50 am

    Your referring to changes that span over years - for an airline that only had 5 aircraft fit for international flights to begin with...you could say the same about Qantas but because they have so many intl flights it doesn’t have the same magnitude. QF changes to LHR/DXB flights and times, in and out of Perth to Sin. Back to San Francisco - to name a few. I see virgin as going strength to strength now flying from all major cities on east coast to LA and soon to offer HKG from the 2 biggest cities of Aus. So what if Mel drops by 2 days - look at what VA gains from doing so.
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    deany83

  • aklrunway

    aklrunway

    5 Mar, 2018 02:00 pm

    I just can't imagine anyone booking them with confidence. I'd be constantly worried about a schedule change or an email saying "soz we don't fly there anymore lol" from them.
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  • Dan

    Dan22

    5 Mar, 2018 02:07 pm

    Meh - I had 3 flights cancelled on me with American Airlines and Delta last year - if an airline canceled a route they re route you or put you on another airline and you can get some sort of compo. In my case I was upgraded to Delta One. So I don’t actually mind if that happens - in fact I’d embrace the compo and welcome a change :p
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  • hutch

    hutch

    5 Mar, 2018 12:39 pm

    All true. But in this situation, what is the alternative?
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  • CityRail

    CityRail

    5 Mar, 2018 11:12 am

    I welcome the change of the Melbourne timetable and I hope they can get 2 extra slots to make the same time daily and also make this permanent.

    I think you need to think this from a Hong Kong customer or a Chinese customer point of view. Hong Kong customers don't have that many time to sit in the plane and waste the whole day rather than they can either go to work or enjoy another day in Melbourne/Sydney.

    Therefore, if Virgin can make Melbourne departure permanent, I think this will be welcomed by a lot of Hong Kong/Chinese customers where they can enjoy early morning arrival into Hong Kong at 8am then go to work immediately or connect to Chinese cities.

    On the other hand, there are many Hong Kong migrants and students in Australia like myself, who don't like wasting the whole day on the plane when we are going back to Hong Kong. Thus the new Melbourne schedule can allow us to go home early and enjoy yum cha as we step out of the plane.

    In terms of wasting the plane in Hong Kong for 12 hours, I wonder if they can get slots, they should discuss with Hong Kong airlines to launch a fifth freedom flight to either Taipei or Tokyo. The reason is that HX cannot add any more flights to TPE due to bilateral agreements between Hong Kong and Taiwan, but VA can; also I believe VA being a new carrier might be easier to get slots at Narita than HX as well. So in this case VA can expand its network, and HX can get more customers as well in the Joint Venture.
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  • Dan

    Dan22

    5 Mar, 2018 11:16 am

    That’s a good point - I was surprised to see how long their a330 would be sitting at HKG. Seems like a waste of an aircraft - I mean if it left HKG on a quick turn around it could fit in another east-west flight potentially.
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  • hutch

    hutch

    5 Mar, 2018 12:43 pm

    I guess if VA can get extra slots, wouldn't they just turn the plane around?
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  • Junhao Kuang

    jkuang

    5 Mar, 2018 01:59 pm

    I was thinking VA might be doing this long lay-over on purpose given their JV with HX. A morning departure, especially one that's before 10 am, won't give HX any chance to bring in passengers from China, Japan, Korea.

    It's just like what CZ did for their CAN-MEL flight back when they only have 1 daily. They park the plane here in MEL for 12-hour so that they can catch the connecting passengers and allow for same-day connection to/from any Chinese cities. IMHO, this is a smart way to do it, since VA can't really compete with CX or QF for O/D passengers in this market, they have to make it work for the connections.
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  • hutch

    hutch

    5 Mar, 2018 03:05 pm

    I'd suggest it is completely around the slots. For an airline like VA, which has a small A330 fleet, having a plane sit on the ground all day is not ideal. There are some benefits, as you point out, but I think if they had the slot to turn the plane around, they would.

    Not much competition in O&D market in day flights back to Melbourne. They have fairly small wide-body and I think their partners have a good following in Hong Kong to help fill the planes in any case.

    But it is what it is for the time being, and I hope they do well.
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  • bodez

    bodez

    5 Mar, 2018 11:25 am

    My only issue with flights just after midnight is not getting the day I’m travelling mixed up!
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  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    5 Mar, 2018 11:38 am

    There are no morning departure slots available on airport website, otherwise the airline would have been allocated them/and took them. I think it’s a case of the only arrival slot INTO HKG is early morning, the only new takeoff slot OUT of HKG is early evening. So another sector in between would be ideal but there are no slots. If they found/allocated one it would be to head back to OZ in morning.
    The previous posters look correct, the new slots required a departure from AU after midnight therefore making them unworkable out of SYD, so the schedule swap logistically had to happen. Otherwise they would have had to pass up slots(no good), launch BNE or take MEL to double daily.
    The new options, look good, if you missed SYD morning could possible head to MEL for evening flight up.
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  • Junhao Kuang

    jkuang

    5 Mar, 2018 01:49 pm

    Since the MEL-HKG departs at 0030 everyday, the "Saturday" flight is actually the "Friday" evening flight right? Seems like Flynn step on one of the "early morning" schedule trap here. So I would say the new MEL-HKG schedule still quite good for corporate travelers or anyone like me, who want to maximize their time in Asia with a Friday night over-night flight.

    Honestly, this schedule is much better than what Virgin was offering at the beginning with daytime and nighttime departure all mix up.
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  • Junhao Kuang

    jkuang

    5 Mar, 2018 01:50 pm

    *everyday* should be *every time*, my apologies
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  • pdaniels62

    pdaniels62

    5 Mar, 2018 03:50 pm

    The VA website still shows an 11am departure ex Melbourne 7 days a week. I contacted the VA call centre as we were connecting from Sydney and had organised a flight for my partner's daughter on the Syd_Mel sector. The. Flights are in November however the call centre could not tell me when schedules will change
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  • Lyn Woods

    lw1962

    5 Mar, 2018 04:25 pm

    Hope mid 2018 rmeans June onwards. We're booked to fly SYD-MEL-HKG on a Wednesday in April.
    Is there a likelihood of this flight being shifted or cancelled?
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  • Lachlan Chau

    lach_chau04

    5 Mar, 2018 05:28 pm

    To me, the new flight arrangement works for me - I like to sleep on board airplanes so I can pass time easily. However, I don't know why they changed their flight numbers from 87 to 85 or from 86 to 84. VA 89 has been moved to Sydney with VA 88 being added on the list, so I think Virgin hasn't gotten their business with Hong Kong (and mainland China) settled. But, I am confident that they will finalise the details soon. Thanks VA, I really mean it!
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  • puppy79

    puppy79

    6 Mar, 2018 06:24 am

    not too bad but lousy if connecting from Adelaide.I might go Cathay Pacific outbound and return via VA THROUGH MELBOURNE homewards.a more bearable 7:45am in the summertime departures nonstop even if it means being at the airport at 0500 like what we had when VA WERE 11AM ex MEL and having to leave ADL at 6:35am to arrive in Melbourne at 8:25am then continuing onwards.
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  • hclcho

    hclcho

    6 Mar, 2018 09:09 am

    Does anyone know when this will be updated in their systems? I called them up and they said the call centre agent said they are not aware of any changes...
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  • Daryl Horsfall

    4WDazza

    6 Mar, 2018 09:23 am

    Last month I flew MEL-HKG because I'm VA Pt and it was a day flight. As the return flight was at night I chose to fly day flight(s) with SQ HKG-SIN-MEL. Yes I can arrive refreshed after a night flight but only if a lie flat bed in J/F and my employer paid for a non-upgradable economy ticket.
    So come on VA you've given the day slot Northbound to Sydney now balance the timetable and aircraft utilisation by making HKG-MEL a daytime flight and I'll both ways with you, MEL-SYD-HKG and HKG-MEL.
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  • Taylor

    Taylor

    6 Mar, 2018 04:36 pm

    Thanks Chris - I was soon going to book the Mel-HKG for later this year but will now stick with SQ or even give CX a try. I was just wondering how SQ manages to have day flights from Sin to Melb/Syd/Bne etc and QF, VA despite the ability does not??
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    Gazza129

  • SeaVisionBurma

    SeaVisionBurma

    8 Mar, 2018 01:39 am

    Glaring point out of this is the idle aircraft for the day in HKG.
    That is a LONG period for VA to have one of their few widebodies out of action on a remote stand - and my guess would be that it points to these schedules changing again in the near future
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  • Gazza129

    Gazza129

    14 Mar, 2018 12:00 pm

    We do an annual trip to HKG and this time are flying VA due to its brilliant departure time out of MEL. Guess next year its back to CX out of ADL
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  • puppy79

    puppy79

    19 Mar, 2018 06:05 am

    outbound on CX EX ADL FOR ME BUT WILL GIVE VA VIA MEL A GO COMING HOME.granted i am frequent flyers in both qatar privilege club and velocity that will determine things in such a combo.i did also consider QF VIA MEL a go too.
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15 Dec, 2018 01:50 pm

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